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Potential root cause of asthma found

Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Cardiff University scientists have identified the potential root cause of asthma and an existing drug that offers a new treatment.

Researchers, working in collaboration with scientists at King’s College London and the Mayo Clinic (USA), discovered a previously unproven role of a protein (CaSR) in the disease which affects 300 million people worldwide.

The findings have been published in a paper for the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The paper highlights how a class of drugs known as calcilytics manipulate CaSR to reverse all the symptoms of asthma.

Calcilytics were first created to treat the bone disease osteoporosis.

Our findings are incredibly exciting. For the first time we have found a link between airways inflammation, which can be caused by.... allergens, cigarette smoke and car fumes, and airways twitchiness in allergic asthma.

– Professor Daniela Riccardi, Cardiff University School of Biosciences

Asthma UK helped fund the research.

This hugely exciting discovery enables us, for the first time, to tackle the underlying causes of asthma symptoms. Five per cent of people with asthma don’t respond to current treatments so research breakthroughs could be life changing for hundreds of thousands of people.

– Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK

Clear skies over Wales for view of shooting stars

Clear skies over Wales tonight are likely to provide a perfect celestial stage for the Lyrid meteor shower across much of the UK.

On average 15 to 20 of the shooting stars can be seen an hour, though an especially active Lyrid shower produced around 90 an hour in 1982.

Credit: PA

The meteors, sand-like particles shed by Comet Thatcher, leave luminous streaks across the sky as they burn up in the atmosphere.

They are most active in the night sky between April 16 and 25, peaking tonight and tomorrow.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich's top tips for watching the meteor shower:

  • The best place to see the Lyrids is to find an open field where you can see the whole of the night sky
  • The best time is a few hours after midnight where you can expect to see most of the bright streaks in the early hours of the morning
  • Scan the sky over the course of the night as the meteors can pop out from any direction

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Cardiff research on graphene ‘revolutionary’ for industry

Credit: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/PA Images

Tests on graphene by a Cardiff University researcher could open up global exploitation of the lightweight ‘wonder’ material.

Graphene is a form of carbon and forms an atomic-scale lattice. It is extremely strong and conducts heat and electricity efficiently. It is used in products from computer chips to super-light aircraft.

But its development has been held back commercially by the cost and difficulty of large-scale production.

Now research by Dr David Morgan, of Cardiff Catalysis Institute, has developed methods of testing and analysing changes in the material.

Dr Morgan has worked alongside South Wales company Perpetuus to test the characteristics of graphene on an industrial scale – a ‘world-first’ for the University.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first analysis of its kind from raw material to final use of the processed material. The development of graphene and related materials is an exciting and ever-expanding field.

– Dr David Morgan, Surface Analysis Manager at Cardiff Catalysis Institute

Herschel 'finds hundreds of young galaxy candidates'

Planck's view of the universe. Credit: ESA, The Planck Collaberation

Scientists, using data from an instrument built with expertise from Cardiff University, say they have discovered what could be the forerunners of the galaxies we see today.

The Herschel Space Observatory, which carries the SPIRE instrument, was used to pinpoint objects in the distant universe, seen at a time when it was only 3 billion years old (the universe is now almost 14 billion years old).

It was given its targets (the black spots in the large image above) by the Planck Space Observatory.

By imaging the young galaxies scientists hope to better understand their evolution into those we see today including our own Milky Way which now has 100 billion stars.

Herschel was launched in May 2009. Credit: ESA - C. Carreau

Cardiff University's Astronomy Instrumentation Group was involved in the design of SPIRE. Members of the School of Physics and Astronomy are analysing and interpreting the data from the instrument.

Herschel stopped operating in 2013 when its coolant was exhausted. But the data it sent back could take several years to interpret.

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